Band's bassist back in the Black

Veteran local band Black Dog Bone are not a band to roll over easily, let alone play dead.

Their bassist, Hamid Ahmad, 63, had his right leg amputated at the knee in April after suffering a disease that doctors reportedly could not diagnose.

But the band play on, with him doing shows while seated. Lead singer and drummer Jatt Ali says everyone in the band, including Hamid, remains committed to the sextet, which was formed in 1972.

On Nov 10, the funk-rockers headline a set at the Esplanade Recital Studio. The show is sold-out.

Jatt, 57, tells Life!: "Everything is going well. Hamid goes around in a wheelchair and will be sitting down and playing bass for the show but he's still the cheerful guy we all know."

Hamid declined to be interviewed. According to Berita Harian, he had developed high fever soon after coming back from a stint as a session musician in Chengdu, China.

He later admitted himself to Khoo Teck Puat Hospital, where doctors amputated his leg to prevent an infection from spreading.

Jatt says the band never considered getting a replacement bassist as Hamid, a full-time musician, is an integral part of Black Dog Bone.

"The problem was with his leg, not his fingers. As long as he is able and willing, he will always be part of the band."

Jatt says Hamid has a close friend and neighbour who takes him to practices and gigs. After his amputation, the bassist played with the band at a gig at Bukit Panjang Community Club in September.

Their one-hour show, Joget Dan Santai Bersama Black Dog Bone (Relax And Dance With Black Dog Bone), is part of A Date With Friends, the Esplanade's annual festival for senior citizens, which runs till Nov 10.

Nov 9's programme, Unforgettable Theme Songs, will be held at the Esplanade Concert Hall at 7.30pm. It features local Chinese pop veterans Lisa Wong, Felinda Wong, Wu Kun Jie, Sun Bao Ling and Jack Ye, as well as Malaysian singer Cheng Kam Cheong.

Jatt is looking forward to having a lively audience at their show tomorrow. He says: "We will be playing Malay joget (dance) songs, many of which we have not played in almost four decades. We don't want the audience to just sit and watch us, it'd be nice if they get up and dance with us."

While joget songs were part of their repertoire, the band are known more for their funk, pop and rock tunes and were called Singapore's version of American R&B/pop band Earth, Wind & Fire in the 1970s and 1980s.

Last month, Black Dog Bone were awarded the Special Award, a lifetime achievement accolade at Anugerah Planet Muzik, a regional Malay music awards show by MediaCorp radio stations Ria 89.7FM and Warna 94.2FM.

So confident are they of the band's future that Jatt says they are now in talks to do a tour of Malaysia next year. The last time they did an extensive tour across the Causeway was in the 1970s.

The band, which also comprise Masron Matali, 69 (trumpets and valve trombone), Michael Heng, 59 (keyboards), Razzi M, 65 (vocals and guitars) and James Chai, 60 (tenor and saxophone, flute and tambourines), have released a dozen Malay albums.

Many of their tunes, including the title track from the 1978 album Si Gadis Ayu, are still regularly played on Malay radio here and in Malaysia.

They split up in 1981 but got back together again in 2002, and have been performing since.

Not all in the band are full-time musicians like Jatt and Hamid. Masron is a taxi driver while Heng is a manager in the logistics industry. They take pride in the fact that their music has survived generations.

Jatt says the oldest of his three grandchildren, a four-year-old boy, is a big fan.

"He started learning how to sing our songs when he was three. He loves to watch the DVD of our live performances and will always ask his dad to play our songs whenever he is in his parents' car."

dinohadi@sph.com.sg

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